SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: The unremitting scourge of bangorrhea.


(Originally published on August 18, 2018)

No sirree, I won’t back down.

I will continue my lonely struggle against bangorrhea (exclamation mark diarrhea) for so long as an ounce of strength remains to tear my hair and mutter recriminations.

To be honest, it never occurred to me that rampant exclamation mark misuse and abuse could be traced to terminal punctuation anxiety. Thanks to the Bookseller for focusing my awareness.

Guys! Exclamation Points Are Out of Control.

By Heather Schwedel (Slate)

Everyone knows that ending a sentence with a period is just about the rudest thing one human can do to another, murder and cuckoldry notwithstanding.

“I hope this note finds you well.” Brutal. “See you then.” Honestly, a little menacing.

It wasn’t always this way—periods have only taken on a sinister cast in response to the rampant exclamation point inflation of the past 15 or so years. The advent of smartphones and, before them, the personal computer, led to the rise of emailing and texting, which long ago surpassed the spoken word as our dominant form of communication. An article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal joins a chorus of other publications that have written about our changing terminal punctuation mores—and the anxiety they can cause. (An anecdote in the WSJ story focused on an employee who thought her boss was angry at her when she ended an email without a slammer.)

What can we do about this? Is there any way to fight back? Or are we doomed to live in a world where every sentence will need to have a minimum of three exclamation points in order to be read as anything less than outright hostile?

To me the answer is perfectly clear. It’s not Yiddish — it’s English: STOP IT.

It seems that we have Urban Dictionary to thank for coining “bangorrhea.”

If you move past the definitions involving disgusting sexual disorders (which every UD entry has at least one of) and the culinary shortcomings of Bangor, Maine, you’ll find bangorrhea defined as “[the overuse of] exclamation points in a vain and failing attempt to make your writing sound more exciting.” At some point in our careers, all copy editors have to clean up someone else’s bangorrhea. And we complain about it, too. This handy word makes it easier to talk about.

This isn’t the first time “bangorrhea” has graced these pages. It was almost exactly five years ago, on August 24, 2013.

In which we examine the phenomenon of bangorrhea. Thanks to B for the link.

Elmore Leonard: Do we use too many exclamation marks?, by Finlo Rohrer (BBC)

Elmore Leonard has died at the age of 87. The crime novelist really didn’t like exclamation marks, notes Finlo Rohrer.

His 10 rules of writing from 2001 are arguably as famous as any of his novels. Point five reads: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”

He wasn’t the only enemy. “Cut out all these exclamation points,” F. Scott Fitzgerald urged. “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

There’s even a word, bangorrhea, that describes their overuse.